(work in process) Key Distinctions about Learning behind EPL's design (will be in alphabetic order)

"We" are, "I am" Learned:

Human beings are innately learning-oriented (with nervous systems "wired" or oriented towards continuously learning). Learning is the central dynamic of being human. Our individual and collective capacities for learning are what most distinguishes us from all other forms of life. Collectively, we are who we've learned to be. The difference between the lives of humans of 40,000 years ago and humans today is not a difference attributable to a change in genes or biology rather to a change in our learning environments (social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, cultural-technological,... ) which are themselves the result of the historical inertia of our collective learning. Not only do I learn - I am learned. Everything about each of us that is not genetically, biologically, or environmentally determined is learned.  (return)

Learning as Presence Extension:

Learning is the process through we become more extensively present in our lives and environments. Learning to extend our presence (exercising the extension of our participation) whether in terms of extending our proprioception into the movements of walking or talking, or the abstract n-dimensional space of physics, music or semantics, is, at root, the same core process, even though the environments we are exercising in are different. The living core of this deep learning is a differentiation and dis-ambiguation (ambiguity reducing) process oriented towards extending an individual's presence more fully into their own living, experiencing and understanding. (return)

YouTube Video presenting "Natural Learning as Presence Extension"

Inverting the Paradigm:

We tend to think of learning as a 'utility' for the acquisition of 'knowledge, skills, and experience' - as the means to an end. Yet, learning is the central dynamic through we extend our lives in every way. We need to invert our thinking. Rather than thinking of learning as the means, and knowledge, skills and experience as the ends, we must turn it inside out and see knowledge, skills and experience as the means through which we exercise and extend our abilities for learning.  Yes, 'knowledge is power' but it's greatest power is in scaffolding ongoing learning.  Yes, "I think therefore I am", and how I think is learned. (return)

YouTube Video presenting "Inverting the Paradigm"

Cycle of Engagement:  

Learning is a process of integrating and incorporating new experiences. The integration process occurs in the field of attention (not necessarily the same as concentration or even conscious awareness).   As sensory and cognitive processes provide foreground input to the stream of consciousness they also trigger re-membering into the flow (according to bio-affective as well as cognitive associative processes) relevant implicit and explicit memories. This dynamic inner assembly of memories provides the background flow, the interior context, and 'working space' within which learning occurs.  The foreground and background processes are concurring real time processes that happen within attention and move through a cyclic process of coherence, dissonance, differentiation, disambiguation, co-implication and, renewed coherence. Between the flowing stream of meanings emerging from the foreground and the stream of background meanings arising in wake-like response, new learning occurs. 

The critical aspect of this inner relationship among meaning processes, is that attention must span and provide the 'field' this cycle takes place in. If the span of attention is inadequate for the stretch between foreground and background, the learner disengages. Disengagement from learning is inevitable when the foreground stretches too far or long away from sustaining relevancy - something that will happen frequently during learning. However disengagement is avoidable when it is caused by incompatibilities introduced by the form, structure, or pacing of information intended to be facilitative (i.e., language, vocabulary, conceptual density, explication style, complexity level, pace etc...).  (return)

Conversation with Siegfried Engelmann on Reducing Ambiguity
YouTube Video presenting the "Cycle of Engagement"


To reduce ambiguity - to dismiss, dissolve, negate, differentiate, distill, co-implicate, etc., towards a more distinct and coherent meaning, the multiplicity of meanings that co-present in attention, particularly if undifferentiated, discohere and erode attention. (return)


Many aspects of experiences intended to facilitate learning cause unintentional and unnecessary disengagement due to their incompatibility with what is relevant to the individual learner. While disengagement is legitimate and unavoidable when the stretch in meaning is beyond the scope of the learner’s relevant experiences, it is unnecessary and avoidable when it is caused by incompatibilities introduced by the form and structure intended to be facilitative (for example incompatibilities in learning style, sensory modality emphasis, vocabulary, pace or over generalized assumptions about 'the' learner's conceptual development). Such disengagements should be seen for what they are: compromising artifacts of our systems -- not disabilities or inadequacies in the learner. (return)

Explicit and Implicit Memory and Learning for Understanding:

Explicit memory 



I) The success of any effort to design, develop or improve any 'system' ...

- curriculum, classroom, school district, pedagogy, project, product, process, service, issue, etc.

- in terms of its systemic performance:

organizational efficiency, cost-effectiveness, optimal achievement of intent

depends on the volume, dimensional extent (scope) and granularity (detail) of the feedback it can gather and learn from.

II) The volume, scope and detail of feedback flow in a system is inversely related to how difficult it is for its constituents...

actual "customers"; learners, teachers, parents, administrators, curriculum providers, assessors, superintendents, board members, stakeholders, etc.,

to articulate their feedback in the moment and in the context of their interactions with the system.

III)  A system's ability to learn from the feedback it gathers is directly related to how well its "owners"...

- persons responsible for any one or all of the resources available in the system

- persons responsible for any one or all aspects of the implementation, mission or intent behind a system (above)

process and understand (in relation to their areas of responsibility and priorities) the feedback they receive.  (return)

Conversation with Siegfried Englemann on Feedback
Video presentation of the "Role of Feedback" and "Stutters"

Informational vs Interpersonal Learning:  

We need to be careful about the distinctions we make between the roles of interpersonally facilitated learning and technology mediated learning. Being present to another human being is a significantly different process than being present to abstract facts and concepts.  From a learners perspective, there are learning experiences that are best facilitated by interpersonal processes. Technology is not a substitute for (though it can at times augment) collaborative, co-mentoring, team teaching, group dialogue and of course, one on one, relationship processes. Similarly, actually contacting and caring for other forms of life from flowers to animals is entirely different than learning about them in text books or on video disks. But just as there are aspects of learning we need to minimally mediate, there are aspects of knowledge that are so abstract and artificially codified that they are best facilitated through a technology-mediated relationship with information.  (return)

YouTube Video presenting "Informational vs Interpersonal Learning"

Insidious Curriculum:

Feedback whether from the environment outside our bodies or internally generated from within us - is what our natural learning processes are "wired" to be guided by. In the more somatic activities of manipulating physical objects, walking and, initially, talking, this wiring works well. These activities provide us with immediate feedback about what is actually happening during our interactions. For instance, the inner sense of falling is the immediate feedback necessary to walking. However, when we encounter the artificial information-mediated world of consensual agreement based knowledge, rules and systems (from classrooms and textbooks to methods, procedures and policies), our wiring gets confused. Precisely because the information is unable to provide us with coherent feedback at the moment we are interacting with it, our instinctual, natural, learning capacities can't directly engage. Here, in thousands (if not millions) of instances of being educated, trained or just interacting with the world, we are tacitly (unconsciously) conditioned to ignore our most authentic meaning need signals, our stutters. (Stutters -- spike-like involuntary drop-outs in the flow of our attention that underlie our meaning needs and guide our natural development and learning.) Consequently, we are educated, trained and to ignore all but our most powerful impulses (and stutters). As a result, we accumulate a substitute, and a much less efficient "inner interface" through which to learn and engage the world.  (return)

YouTube video presenting the "Insidious Curriculum"

Meaning Needs:

Our meaning needs arise from the deepest and most authentic activity of our learning process - when we learn to ignore them, no matter what else we may be learning `about', we cut ourselves off from the fountainhead of our capacities for learning. Developing a new sense of learning begins with vivifying our awareness of our meaning needs.

A great question is the differentiation, unfoldment, explication and articulation of a need for meaning. For example, when actually in the moment of experiencing uncertainty, we are needing more meaning.

At the core of a learner's capacities to employ "critical thinking skills", to formulate a "good question", to "construct knowledge", to "abstract coherently", to avoid "premature closure", to avoid "tendencies toward self-deception", to live with "ambiguity" and to "creatively learn" is the learner's both tacitly spontaneous and consciously instrumented response to his or her own fluctuating meaning needs. As these needs fluctuate, how the learner has been habituated to, or has learned to respond to them, (consciously and/or subconsciously follow through with or suppress them) fundamentally regulates his or her capacity to learn. Analogous to the somatic impulses that propel and direct our physical movements, meaning needs propel and direct the movements of our attention when learning.

Because many of the materials and strategies used in traditional classrooms, such as lectures, text books and computers, are unable to respond to the `meaning needs' they provoke in us, they insidiously teach us to ignore them. When we ignore our own needs for more meaning, we become prone to following poor inferences and tangents, our `attention span' is unnecessarily dissipated, and soon we `fall' or `slip out' of learning.”  (return)

YouTube Video presenting "Meaning Needs"

Mutually Learning Oriented Relationships:

Facilitating learners who are able to continually learn is a significantly different objective than cramming knowledge into students. The global paradigm shift from "terminal knowers" to "dynamic learners" demands a fundamentally new relationship, a mutually learning oriented relationship between learners and all those involved in facilitating or resourcing their learning.

Facilitating learners' awareness of their own meaning needs can only occur in an environment capable of acknowledging and responding to them.  To evolve an environment capable of responding to the meaning needs of individual learners the environment (human, technical, infrastructural) must be fundamentally design-intent on learning about those needs. Thus, a mutually learning oriented relationship. (see "Stutter" for more detail) (return)

YouTube Video presenting "Mutually Learning Oriented Relationships"

Nintendo: Why Video Games Engage Children:

What makes the video game experience so engageable for children?  It's clear that themes (i.e., Batman, Turtles, etc...), whizzy sounds, and sophisticated color graphics are not the real issues. While they attract the child's initial interest, some of the most apparently spectacular games failed in the marketplace because they were missing something that others far less so had - the ability to sustain the child's engagement.  Underneath all the multi-media whiz-bang a special kind of engagement between child and game emerges if the game's deeper rhythms of play are compatible with the child's interest and attention span.

The most engagable video game experiences share certain “deep dynamics”. They all involve moving through a matrix of challenges and obstacles, learning certain movement skills and dexterities, using one's “energy” or “lives” judiciously, and most importantly, learning when and how to: freeze the game playing, jump “off-line” to a resource screen, select a resource with which to overcome an obstacle, re-engage the play screen and employ the resource to move ahead (resources might be ladders, hammers, magic potions, jewels, rafts, money, food, a consulting wizard, etc..).  There are cycling rhythms of challenge, frustration, creative resource application and renewal that were at the core of why kids enjoy playing the games. Yes, the sound and graphic effects are important components but it's the way the games allowed the children to creatively act upon their own frustrations - the cycle of relevancy, challenge, frustration, and resolution - all happening in real time compatibility with the ACTUAL child's attention, that are the keys. (return)

YouTube Video presenting the "Nintendo Experience"


Stutter: A perturbation in the flow - an involuntary 'drop-out' or 'disconnect' in the flow of attention, engagement or interaction.  Every "stutter" in the flow of an individual's interactions with any "resource" intended to support or facilitate their learning, performing, participating, using or enjoying...

any aspect of: a product, process, service, (course, book, computer simulation, game, etc...)

is a great opportunity for both the individual and for all those involved in providing what he or she is interacting with. For the individual, each stutter is an internal feedback signal indicating that something is missing, needed or incomplete. It also provides, if reflected on and distilled (disambiguated), the best possible source of internal information from which to understand what is missing or needed and, given the available options, how to best proceed. For the people and organizations that benefit, profit or are responsible for providing the resources, the best possible source of information from which to intelligently evolve and cost-optimally improve the resources, stems from understanding...

in relation to the specific interaction locations (system anatomy) they are responsible for,

where and why people stutter. (return)

Conversation with Siegfried Englemann on Feedback
Video presentation of the "Role of Feedback" and "Stutters"


Key Distinctions about the Technology behind EPL (will be in alphabetic order)

Relevant Random Access:

In terms of personal computers, storage devices and the design of networks and the internet, the paradigm has been 'random access'. What a user will do or need next while in the middle of using a word processor, a CAD program, a spreadsheet, or a web browser is virtually unknowable. While systems designed to optimally respond to random activities are necessary to support "users" there is a major difference between their needs and the needs of learners.

While there are occasions when learners will need to be able to randomly jump from one domain or subject to another, their most frequent and important needs have to do with responding to those needs that emerge while within the scope of a learning objective or inquiry. At any given time the learner's resource needs can be seen as relevantly related to the meaning terrain the learner is in. References for words or alternative presentations of the meaning intended (or pursued) in the larger construct being learned, are all correlated by their relevancy to the possible meaning needs of learners. In other words, as learners move through learning experiences they continually redefine the center of a relevancy bubble. Its not that they won't occasionally need resources that can't be anticipated, but the majority of their needs are relevant to the situation they are in. Technologically speaking, the most important learner needs can be characterized as requiring situational, relevantly bounded, random access. The design of EPL technology is based on this notion which we refer to as Relevant Random Access (RRA). By orienting processor and storage/server access operations toward optimal performance within such relevancy bubbles, the cost vs performance curves of processing platforms (PCS, Laptops, Netbooks, Tablets), storage devices/servers, and networks can be significantly enhanced.

At the core of Relevant Random Access is a new file type which behaves neither like a sequential file nor like a general purpose data base. Designed to take advantage of the fact that the learner's needs are not actually random; that they cluster strongly around the immediate learning objective, this new file type is essentially a micro-database that contains all the links necessary to have in RAM the secondary store addresses of all the information resources a learner can request from his current position, and further, to have as much as possible of the actual resources that may be called for in RAM as well. This new file type is called a "Meaning Module".

The Meaning Module can be described as a learning objective resourcing micro data base. A key element of its design is its inner structure or geometry. Each module has virtual cavities and containers which store lists of resources and in many cases the resources themselves related to the learning objective the module serves. For example each word, term, picture or sound that might appear to the learner has a trigger that points to the module's reference list. Each item on the reference list has tags which identify which types of reference supports and where the actual references are located (internal to the module in one of its reference content containers or external to the module by store address). When the learner points to such a word, term, picture etc., (declares a meaning need) the system need only look to see what's available for that object by looking it up in it's reference list. As this is in RAM the system instantly responds to the learner with a list of references by reference type actually available to support their needs. As the learner in turn selects from among these choices the system immediately presents the resource. If the resource selected wasn't in RAM the system knows exactly where to go to get it. This approach to relevant reference processing is also used to organize and store alternative representations of the entire modules intended meaning. Thus alternative languages, or materials biased to be suitable for learners with different levels of competency, cognitive bias and learning style can all be correlated for efficient processing and hence the critical meaning need responsiveness discussed earlier.

This approach to the correlation, clustering and compilation of resources provides a significant technical advantage. First linkage between resources within the module is accomplished by the module's structure. Though their are links between modules, the messy overhead of discrete links between objects relevant to the module is eliminated by the RRA distributed processing model inherent in the module's architecture. Discrete links are reduced by an average of 80-90%. In addition to the logistical and management benefits related to decreased links is the fact that links are not an efficient basis for preparing RAM content in hypermedia systems. To read all the links and then operate on those links to discreetly preload linked contents could require hundreds of unnecessary time consuming system transactions.  (return)